Athletic Club Bilbao stun holders Barcelona


Barcelona’s dismal season hit yet another low after they crashed out of the Copa Del Rey to Athletic Club, losing 3-2 after extra time at San Mames.

Xavi Hernandez’s side were second best for much of the Round of 16 encounter, with their ageing defence tested time and again by the pace and trickery of Nico Williams.

And though they showed fight to twice get back on terms, Iker Muniain’s late penalty was one bridge too far to recover from.

It was quite the start at San Mames, with Muniain lighting the blue touchpaper by putting his side ahead with just two minutes on the clock.

It was a fine curling finish from the 29-year-old following good work down the right by the industrious Nico Williams.

But anything Muniain could do, so too could Ferran Torres.

Barcelona had barely been in the game but receiving the ball from Sergio Busquets on 20 minutes, Ferran turned and lashed into the far corner giving Julen Agirrezabala no chance.

With Nico Williams continuing to cause chaos down the right the hosts could quite conceivably have gone into the break ahead, but they had to wait until the last five minutes of normal time to get their just desserts.

Muniain’s freekick found Alex Berenguer who saw his header saved by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, but the Barcelona keeper couldn’t stop Inigo Martinez bundling the rebound over the line.

It looked like being another dagger to the heart of the Blaugrana but somehow, from somewhere, they dug out a scarcely-deserved equaliser at the death through Pedri.

It took the game to extra-time, whereupon the hosts forced their spot-kick after a handball from Jordi Alba, and Muniain showed nerves of steel to slot past Ter Stegen.

Barcelona pressed in the final stages in search of an equaliser but to no avail.

They will now lick their wounds and resume their battle to finish in the top four of La Liga Santander – itself no foregone conclusion.

Real Madrid advance to the next round

Real Madrid came from behind to eventually break Elche’s stubborn resistance and qualify for the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men were taken to extra-time by Fran Escriba’s purposeful side and it looked like a huge shock was on the cards when Gonzalo Verdu struck in the 103rd minute. But goals from Isco and Eden Hazard secured Real Madrid’s comeback.

Together with their lead at the top of La Liga Santander and their position in the Champions League knockout stages, the win keeps Los Blancos’ season alive on all fronts.

It was a scratch Real Madrid side that took to the field at Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero, with the likes of Marcelo, Luka Jovic and Andriy Lunin all getting rare starts.

And that resulted in a largely disjointed opening from Real Madrid, with Elche’s Guido Carillo somehow hitting the bar early on when it looked far easier to score.

It wasn’t the first time Carrillo had a sight of goal as midway through the first half he couldn’t make the most of an inviting Johan Mojica corner, before the same combination saw Lunin forced into more meaningful action.

Real Madrid grew into the tie as the interval neared but despite threatening through the increasingly influential Vinicius Junior, they couldn’t find the breakthrough.

The second half saw Real Madrid on top but the stalemate continued, despite a late chance for Vinicius. Extra time however was altogether more lively, with three goals and a sending off.

The first two of those blows went the way of Elche, as Real Madrid saw Marcelo expelled having brought down Tete Morente, and then remarkably los Franjiverdes took the lead through Verdu’s deflected effort.

Elche were on the verge of beating Real Madrid for the first time since 1978, but their hopes were dashed late on as first Isco and then Hazard saved their side’s blushes.

The two sides face each other again on Sunday in La Liga Santander.


Courtesy: MARCA

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